Short Cuts 

Drive-By Trucker hits the road solo, reveals key influence.

Killers and Stars

Patterson Hood

(New West)

On this home-recorded, solo acoustic album from Drive-By Trucker Patterson Hood, there is only one song that's a revelation --and it's a cover. It's Tom T. Hall's "Pay No Attention to Alice," written about a friend's alcoholic wife. Of course! For all the comparisons that the Drive-By Truckers draw to classic-rock forebears such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Neil Young, and Bruce Springsteen, the band's songwriting style and ethical sense owe a clear debt to Hall, and as a devout Hall fan, I can't believe I didn't make the connection before Hood made it for me. In retrospect, Hall's sneaky-smart, deadpan-funny character sketches now clearly seem to be a model for great Truckers songs like "Guitar Man Upstairs" and "Margo and Harold."

The disappointing thing about Killers and Stars is that the rest of the album runs away from this connection. Maybe that's okay, since it would be better to hear Hood's best efforts locked in to his band's three-guitar attack (Killers and Stars is being slipped out between the releases of last year's Decoration Day and this summer's next DBT full-length, The Dirty South) than strummed casually in his dining room.

Hood's gifts are for humor and detail, be it personal or, like Hall, observed. Only two songs on Killers and Stars fit into this vein --"Old Timer's Disease," clearly the former, and "Phil's Transplant," which seems to be the latter. The rest can be divided into two more groups: archetypal songs that come across like songwriting exercises and musings on some of Hood's pop-culture obsessions.

The first group --with titles such as "The Rising Son," "The Assassin," and "The Hobo" --may well all be metaphors for things Hood was going through when he wrote them, but they don't hit as hard or dig as deep as the songs Hood writes for the Truckers. These are strong songs, but they sound as if they could have been written by anyone.

Better are the pop-culture songs, which reflect more of Hood's personality. "Uncle Disney," with the opening lines "When they thaw out Uncle Disney/Gonna be some changes made/Pointing fingers, asking questions/Forty years of decisions made," reaffirms Hood's gift for subtle vernacular. "Frances Farmer" is no match for, say, Woody Guthrie's "Ingrid Bergman" as musical mash note to an actress, but it gets in some good lines. The others are more up-to-date and far cheekier: "Belinda Carlisle Diet" ("Cocaine and milkshakes, milkshakes, cocaine/All that money down the drain") and "Cat Power" ("My little disaffected sex symbol, you/If you was any more shy, you'd break in two").

All in all, not a bad effort, though I think I'd rather hear Hood do a spoken-word record.

-- Chris Herrington

Grade: B

Patterson Hood performs at the Hi-Tone CafÇ Thursday, June 3rd.

Panda Park

90 Day Men

(Southern Records)

What an odd little bird, this Panda Park, the third missive from the once-predictable 90 Day Men. Making ripples around 2000 with (It (is) It) Critical Band, the foursome added an assertive post-punk repetition to post-rock and post-rock fallout of fellow Chicagoans Tortoise. Now they've taken a novel course straight into the early '70s, with an electric piano front and center. The vocals of Brian Case will never be mistaken for the polished pipes of Yes's Steve Howe, and the music lacks the complicated discipline of those dinosaurs, but the feel and sway of the original heavy-hitters of prog rock is unshakable. The vocals will make or break this band for some listeners. Case is as tuneless as the day is long. Alternating between a murmur, a mumble, a yelp, an ill-conceived Prince falsetto, and a dead-on Scott Walker send-up, the vocals on Panda Park drive home the fact that singing isn't really the point with this band. The point is that, while there is a Chicago post-rock flare, 90 Day Men also sound unlike any underground trends of the moment. Hats off to originality. I just wish originality had a different singer. n --Andrew Earles

Grade: B



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

    • Don Lifted Is In Control

      Confessional hip-hop and stunning visuals.
    • Redd Kross

      Pioneers who inspired Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and Melvins remain vital.


News Blog

Meet the New Blue Suede Brigade

Fly On The Wall Blog

How Much News is on the News: A Guns & Bunnies Web Extra

Intermission Impossible

August Wilson's Metaphysical "Gem of the Ocean" Opens at The Hattiloo

Politics Beat Blog

Two Bites from the Thursday Night Smorgasbord

News Blog

Photo Contest Focuses on Memphis Bikes

News Blog

Live at the Garden guests prepare to party

News Blog

Bike Lanes and Plazas to Pop Up Downtown


More by Chris Herrington

  • Last Words

    In "Enough Said," James Gandolfini makes his last lead film role his best.
    • Sep 26, 2013
  • Masters of Sound

    New albums from two of Memphis’ most distinctive stylists.
    • Sep 19, 2013
  • Hayes Carll at the Hi-Tone

    • Sep 19, 2013
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Lathe of Heaven

    Memphis music engineer Jeff Powell on his latest asset
    • Oct 22, 2015
  • Runnin' From the Law

    A weekend with the Lone Ranger of Love.
    • Mar 10, 2016
  • Blasts of Static

    Fat Possum set to release Grifters albums.
    • Jun 23, 2016
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation